Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

( 698 )

Overview

In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this closed community and the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women.

Now, in this courageous ...

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Stolen Innocence

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Overview

In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this closed community and the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women.

Now, in this courageous memoir, Elissa Wall tells the incredible and inspirational story of how she emerged from the confines of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and helped bring one of America's most notorious criminals to justice. Offering a child's perspective on life in the FLDS, Wall discusses her tumultuous youth, explaining how her family's turbulent past intersected with her strong will and identified her as a girl who needed to be controlled through marriage. Detailing how Warren Jeffs's influence over the church twisted its already rigid beliefs in dangerous new directions, Wall portrays the inescapable mind-set and unrelenting pressure that forced her to wed despite her repeated protests that she was too young.

Once she was married, Wall's childhood shattered as she was obligated to follow Jeffs's directives and submit to her husband in "mind, body, and soul." With little money and no knowledge of the outside world, she was trapped and forced to endure the pain and abuse of her loveless relationship, which eventually pushed her to spend nights sleeping in her truck rather than face the tormentor in her bed.

Yet even in those bleak times, she retained a sliver of hope that one day she would find a way out, and one snowy night that came in the form of a rugged stranger named Lamont Barlow. Their chance encounter set in motion a friendship and eventual romance that gave her the strength she needed to break free from her past and sever the chains of the church.

But though she was out of the FLDS, Wall would still have to face Jeffs—this time in court. In Stolen Innocence, she delves into the difficult months on the outside that led her to come forward against him, working with prosecutors on one of the biggest criminal cases in Utah's history, so that other girls still inside the church might be spared her cruel fate.

More than a tale of survival and freedom, Stolen Innocence is the story of one heroic woman who stood up for what was right and reclaimed her life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The juxtaposition of Raudman's narrative equanimity and the young girl's shocking experiences creates an arresting audio experience." —-AudioFile
People
“Wall’s story couldn’t be more timely. Her descriptions of the polygamous sect’s rigidity are shocking, but what’s most fascinating is the immensely likeable author’s struggle to reconcile her longing for happiness with her terror of it’s consequences.”
People Magazine
"Wall’s story couldn’t be more timely. Her descriptions of the polygamous sect’s rigidity are shocking, but what’s most fascinating is the immensely likeable author’s struggle to reconcile her longing for happiness with her terror of it’s consequences."
People
“Wall’s story couldn’t be more timely. Her descriptions of the polygamous sect’s rigidity are shocking, but what’s most fascinating is the immensely likeable author’s struggle to reconcile her longing for happiness with her terror of it’s consequences.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400107902
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/19/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 14 CDs, 16 hrs. 30 min.
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Pulitzer is a frequent contributor to the New York Post and the author of a number of true crime titles, including A Woman Scorned: The Shocking Real-Life Case of Billionairess Killer Susan Cummings.

Elissa Wall is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) who was forced into marriage at age fourteen.

Renée Raudman is a multi-award-winning audiobook narrator and actor. A multiple Audie Award nominee, she has earned a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards, and her narration of Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper was selected by Library Journal as one of the best audiobooks of 2009.

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Read an Excerpt

Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Chapter One

A New Mother

For us, it is the priesthood of God or nothing.
—Flds Parable

I can still smell the Dutch-oven roast on the table the night Dad announced we were getting a new mother. Even though there were already two mothers in our house, receiving a third was cause for celebration. I was nine years old and a little bit confused, but mostly I was excited because everyone else at the dinner table was acting so happy for our father.

It didn't seem at all unusual that we would have a third mother—or that our family would continue to grow. That was just a part of the only life I had ever known as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a group that broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—more popularly known as the LDS Mormon Church—so that they could continue to practice plural marriage. Sure, our home already had two mothers and almost a dozen kids, but many of the children I knew had far more than that in their families. It seemed to make sense that we would get another mother. It was just that time.

Back then, I didn't really understand much about the FLDS, but I knew that we were different from the people living around us in our Salt Lake City suburb. For one thing, we weren't supposed to play with other kids in the neighborhood, and we usually kept the curtains in the house drawn to protect our privacy and the secret life we led. Unlike most of the neighborhoodkids, we didn't get on the yellow school buses and go to public schools. Instead, we went to a special place, Alta Academy—a huge, unassuming white brick house that had been converted into a school for members of the FLDS. We also dressed differently from everyone else, wearing long church undergarments that covered our entire body and stretched from the neck to the ankles and the wrists. On top of these, the girls and women wore frilly long pioneer-style dresses year-round, which made it hard to play in the backyard and even harder to stay comfortable in the summer heat. Whereas most kids would go out in shorts and a T-shirt, we didn't own either, and even if we did, we would not have been allowed to wear them.

At the time, I didn't really know why everything had to be so different; all I knew was that I had to "keep sweet" and not complain. We were God's chosen people—and when Judgment Day came, we would be the only ones allowed into heaven. Judgment Day was known to the FLDS people as the day the destruction of the Lord would sweep across the earth, bringing fire, storms, and death in its wake. The wicked would all be destroyed and when it seemed like none would survive, the Lord would lift the worthiest people—us—off the earth while the devastation passed beneath us. Then we would be set back down and would build Zion, a place without sadness or pain. We would reside there with God and enjoy a thousand years of peace.

My father, Douglas Wall, was an elder in the FLDS Church. For him, and indeed for our whole family, receiving a third wife was a major blessing and an important milestone on the long road to eternal salvation. The idea of having more than one wife had become an integral part of the Mormon religion after Joseph Smith founded it in 1830, but the Mormon Church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, in part, so that Utah could gain statehood. Still, some of its members continued to practice in secret at the risk of being excommunicated. By 1935, some of the men who'd been expelled from the Mormon Church formed their own breakaway sect, first known as "The Work" and decades later as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They viewed plural marriage as a central tenet—and the only way to attain eternal salvation.

Members of the FLDS believe they are following the true Mormon religion as it was first envisioned by Joseph Smith. One of its central teachings is the idea of celestial marriage, in which a man must have a minimum of three wives to gain admittance to the highest of the three levels of heaven. That Dad was getting a third wife meant that he had begun to secure a place in the Celestial Kingdom for himself and his family.

Eleven of Dad's twenty-two children were still living at our home in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he broke the news that Saturday evening in October 1995. Many of my older siblings were married and had moved out to start lives of their own. My family lived on a quiet street in a suburb called Sugar House, about thirty blocks southeast of Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon Church, located in downtown Salt Lake City. Established in 1853, six years after Brigham Young guided the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, Sugar House was named for the sugar mill whose contruction had never been completed there. Still, the name stuck.

Our house was set back about twenty feet from the road, with views of the Wasatch Mountains in the distance. Large pine trees and shrubs in the front yard obstructed much of the view and made the house appear smaller than it really was, but Dad had always loved this location because it had a big backyard where the kids could play. More important, it afforded a degree of privacy, which was crucial, since we didn't want people to know too much about us. Because plural marriages were forbidden in Utah, our family, like all families in the FLDS, was concerned about the attention we could receive if the outside world knew what was going on inside our house.

Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs
. Copyright © by Elissa Wall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents


Prologue     1
Part 1
A New Mother     7
Growing Up and Keeping Sweet     30
Good Priesthood Children     59
In Light and Truth     74
The Rise of Warren     92
Out of Control     115
Reassignment     134
Preparing for Zion     157
A Revelation Is Made     170
The Celestial Law     190
The Word of the Prophet     209
Man and Wife     228
All Alone     250
Part 2
Survival Begins     279
The Destruction Is Upon Us     301
Death Comes to Short Creek     322
False Prophet     335
Refuge in Canada     351
Nowhere to Run     374
A Pair of Headlights     391
Promise Not to Tell     415
A Story Like Mine     433
Love at Last     460
Choosing My Future     478
Part 3
New Beginnings     499
Coming Forward     525
Captured     542
Facing Warren     552
The Trial Begins     576
The End Is in Sight     603
I Am Free     634
Epilogue     650
Author's Note     663
Acknowledgments     665
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First Chapter

Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Chapter One

A New Mother

For us, it is the priesthood of God or nothing.
—Flds Parable

I can still smell the Dutch-oven roast on the table the night Dad announced we were getting a new mother. Even though there were already two mothers in our house, receiving a third was cause for celebration. I was nine years old and a little bit confused, but mostly I was excited because everyone else at the dinner table was acting so happy for our father.

It didn't seem at all unusual that we would have a third mother—or that our family would continue to grow. That was just a part of the only life I had ever known as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a group that broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—more popularly known as the LDS Mormon Church—so that they could continue to practice plural marriage. Sure, our home already had two mothers and almost a dozen kids, but many of the children I knew had far more than that in their families. It seemed to make sense that we would get another mother. It was just that time.

Back then, I didn't really understand much about the FLDS, but I knew that we were different from the people living around us in our Salt Lake City suburb. For one thing, we weren't supposed to play with other kids in the neighborhood, and we usually kept the curtains in the house drawn to protect our privacy and the secret life we led. Unlike most of theneighborhood kids, we didn't get on the yellow school buses and go to public schools. Instead, we went to a special place, Alta Academy—a huge, unassuming white brick house that had been converted into a school for members of the FLDS. We also dressed differently from everyone else, wearing long church undergarments that covered our entire body and stretched from the neck to the ankles and the wrists. On top of these, the girls and women wore frilly long pioneer-style dresses year-round, which made it hard to play in the backyard and even harder to stay comfortable in the summer heat. Whereas most kids would go out in shorts and a T-shirt, we didn't own either, and even if we did, we would not have been allowed to wear them.

At the time, I didn't really know why everything had to be so different; all I knew was that I had to "keep sweet" and not complain. We were God's chosen people—and when Judgment Day came, we would be the only ones allowed into heaven. Judgment Day was known to the FLDS people as the day the destruction of the Lord would sweep across the earth, bringing fire, storms, and death in its wake. The wicked would all be destroyed and when it seemed like none would survive, the Lord would lift the worthiest people—us—off the earth while the devastation passed beneath us. Then we would be set back down and would build Zion, a place without sadness or pain. We would reside there with God and enjoy a thousand years of peace.

My father, Douglas Wall, was an elder in the FLDS Church. For him, and indeed for our whole family, receiving a third wife was a major blessing and an important milestone on the long road to eternal salvation. The idea of having more than one wife had become an integral part of the Mormon religion after Joseph Smith founded it in 1830, but the Mormon Church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, in part, so that Utah could gain statehood. Still, some of its members continued to practice in secret at the risk of being excommunicated. By 1935, some of the men who'd been expelled from the Mormon Church formed their own breakaway sect, first known as "The Work" and decades later as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They viewed plural marriage as a central tenet—and the only way to attain eternal salvation.

Members of the FLDS believe they are following the true Mormon religion as it was first envisioned by Joseph Smith. One of its central teachings is the idea of celestial marriage, in which a man must have a minimum of three wives to gain admittance to the highest of the three levels of heaven. That Dad was getting a third wife meant that he had begun to secure a place in the Celestial Kingdom for himself and his family.

Eleven of Dad's twenty-two children were still living at our home in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he broke the news that Saturday evening in October 1995. Many of my older siblings were married and had moved out to start lives of their own. My family lived on a quiet street in a suburb called Sugar House, about thirty blocks southeast of Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon Church, located in downtown Salt Lake City. Established in 1853, six years after Brigham Young guided the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, Sugar House was named for the sugar mill whose contruction had never been completed there. Still, the name stuck.

Our house was set back about twenty feet from the road, with views of the Wasatch Mountains in the distance. Large pine trees and shrubs in the front yard obstructed much of the view and made the house appear smaller than it really was, but Dad had always loved this location because it had a big backyard where the kids could play. More important, it afforded a degree of privacy, which was crucial, since we didn't want people to know too much about us. Because plural marriages were forbidden in Utah, our family, like all families in the FLDS, was concerned about the attention we could receive if the outside world knew what was going on inside our house.

Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs
. Copyright © by Elissa Wall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 698 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(367)

4 Star

(189)

3 Star

(83)

2 Star

(33)

1 Star

(26)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 698 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING STORY

    From the moment I opened the front cover I was pulled into a story of strength and very real trauma that Elissa was subjected to in her childhood. Elissa's account of her life makes your heart ache for her, and makes you feel as if you were right there with her but like many other people in the story unable to help her and you are left feeling as desperate as she did. The strength and survival instinct Elissa displayed is amazing. I encourage anyone to read this book, there are lessons for every man and woman. Elissa is a role model of what can be achieved when you are trusting of the process and are not willing to be defeated! A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book go to MJ Fund , a fund designed to help other people in the situation. That alone is a great reason to purchase this book. God bless you Elissa, and thank you for filling my heart and showing women not to back down and be defeated.

    29 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 22, 2010

    captivating and many layered

    This is a brave book. It is well written and I had to read it all right away - late night! I also wanted to talk about the ideas with others. This would be a good choice for a book group.
    I'm so glad Elisa was brave to go to trial and brave to write a book. She had a painful childhood. Her story shows how a tradition with some nourishing elements went very very bad under the autocratic rule of a bad man. Truth is stranger than fiction. Some very weird stuff happens in Southern Utah.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An absorbing, penetrating, often shocking look at real life in a polygamous sect.

    Elissa Wall writes an eye opening, often shocking account of what it was like to be raised in a polygamous household where young girls are groomed to be teen aged brides in marriages arranged by the church leaders who exercise absolute control over the lives of their members. She relates how she escaped from the sect and today lives with her husband and children. We also learn of her heartbreak at the separation from other members of her family who are still in the sect. She includes details of the arrest and trial of Warren Jeffs, and her ongoing fight for the rights of young girls still in the sect, including two younger sisters.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 21, 2011

    could not put it down!

    The story was incredibly riveting. I could not put the book down. Great story of survival.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2011

    Interesting!

    I found this book to be a very interesting look at the polygamist way of life. I wonder how many other women and young girls have this same story to tell. I feel sorry for these women.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

    Good read

    Very touching and insperational

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    highly recommend

    gives real insight into the polygamist lifestyle.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    This is a must read

    I just finished this book and it was great. I felt every ounce of pain that Elissa was dealing with. I was hoping that her brothers and sisters would be able to help their mother and two youngest siblings. It was very unfortunate that her husband Allen had no official charges brought against him. Elissa displayed such strength and courage. I am glad that she is happily married and was able to have two successful pregnancies.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    must read

    I was totally absorbed by this book. It just makes one wonder how so many people can be taken in by a "Prophet". How the innocent can be duped and led down a path that just isn't right. I was happy to see that Elissa and her sisters were strong enough to pull away from this religious control. I'm sorry that their mother and younger sisters are lost in the control of the church and not allowed to be a part of Elissa and her sister lives. Taking the stand against Warren and putting him where he truly belongs was a truly brave thing. Kudos to Elissa Wall

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Cant put it down

    This book kept my interest it was hard to put it down

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Most boring book I have read in a very long time

    I can barely keep my eyes open reading this and it doesnt improve the further you read on. I read Carolyn Jessop's book about her experience with polygamy (I cant remember what its called but i think i found it in the Barnes and Noble top 100 list ) and it was so much more interesting, more well written and much more entertaining. I read all the time, and am not typically picky. This book is truly SO boring and slow and seemingly pointless. I only gave it one star because it wont let me give zero. Total waste of time and money.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    sad

    poorly writen. Sad story but hard to read

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Interesting

    I really enjoyed this book, had a hard time putting it down as I wanted to know what happened to her. Interesting look into another way of life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 9, 2011

    A powerful book by a very brave girl.

    I can only imagine how difficult it was for Elissa Wall to put into writing her shocking true life experiences in the FLDS church, her forced marriage at age 14, and her ultimate escape from the only life she knew. The courage she had not only to account in detail the horrors she suffered at the hands of this sect, but also to ultimately bring criminal charges against self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs, is remarkable.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2008

    Amazing

    I stayed up all night reading this book mainly because I could not believe what I was reading. I did not know how extreme the FDLS Church had become and how similar it is to the Taliban. I really sympathised with Alisa Wall and I want to meet her some day. I was also amazed and inspired by her strenth and character.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    It was ok

    It was ok if you just have to know. Lots of repeating in it. Lost interest haven't finished it yet.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Infuriating

    Though an interesting story, it is painfully obvious that the writer has had a poor education. At times thus makes Elissa's story endearing, at others, her story is dull and redundant. (I had to skim pages just to force my way through) Her pain and suffering could easily be edited into a much more compact tale with a few more adjectives. I will say it is interesting to hear her simplistic perspective on the flds and its philosophies.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2011

    A whine festival with no cheese.

    While I feel for the girl and what she went through, the book is amazingly whining and redundant. Continually having to tell the reader that she was trying to obey and be sweet should not be necessary every other line if she really was. She and her entire sibling group were set apart not out of unkindness from her flds community but it sounds like they were all challenging something or another all the time! I know of girls who have had a much harder road to travel than this Elissa, but they do not have a religion to blame it all on. Finally, stop claiming to follow God. You followed a man who thinks he is God and all you simple minds fed his insanity. I am trying to make it through this book but it is PAINFUL!

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Dragged on

    First off I am so thankful that Elissa got away from the FLDS lifestyle she was in and was able to tell her story. That said this book dragged on. It could havd been told in fewer words and details. The publishers should have made this book flow better. I did not enjoy reading this book. I have read Jaycee Dugards book A Stolen Life and it flowed much better. Again, I am glad these women were able to share their stories and not let their attackers get away with what they did.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2011

    Loved it!

    I enjoyed hearing what's really happening in these cults...well not "enjoy" but it's shocking and heartbreaking what's happening. This woman had a lot of courage and strength to break away from this life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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